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Annual £5bn savings for NHS England outlined today

Better organisation of staff and more efficient spending on everyday items could save £5bn a year, Lord Carter's report said today.

Lord Carter, a member of the House of Lords, spent a year working with 22 hospitals in order to outline cost inefficiencies for the government.

He pinpointed problems in the way staff were managed, with one hospital losing £10,000 a month through workers claiming too much leave. The report also states that hospitals need flexible working and better rostering, to use staff more effectively.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: “Lord Carter's review is a welcome illustration of how the NHS and individual hospitals could be much more effective in how they procure equipment, drugs, and above all staff.

“The RCN has been saying for several years that nursing numbers are not meeting demand and Lord Carter has set out a very strong evidence base to support the fact that the NHS could be making much better use of its staff. By investing in permanent staff, with training and development, sufficient incentives and improved rostering arrangements, the NHS could reduce its staff turnover and save on the cost of temporary staff,” he said.

After NICE's suspension of work looking into safe staffing levels last week, he said it was “gratifying” that Lord Carter recommends clear guidance in this area.

“As Lord Carter suggests, safe staffing is at the heart of safe care, and we would be delighted to work with NICE and others to make this laudable principle a reality for patients everywhere,” he said.

Lord Carter's review also they were huge differences in the amount of money paid for basic items, such as gloves, medicines, and hip replacements, and that savings in this area could save £17m a year.

Latex gloves cost £5.44 a box in one hospital, but another hospital bought them for £2.39, for example. Similarly the report said that one hospital saved £40,000 a year by using 2p non-soluble versions of a tablet for liver failure instead of £1.50 soluble type.

Peter Carter of the RCN said: “Recent joint work by the RCN and the NHS Supply Chain estimated that nurses working together with procurement managers could save more than £30m per annum - the equivalent of 1,000 nursing jobs - just by streamlining the buying of basics such as wipes and incontinence products.”

He said that procurement is often raised by nurses who are appalled by the waste and inefficiency they sometimes witness.

“Lord Carter has rightly pointed out that the way forward is to combine quality and cost - rather than rushing to make short-term savings,” he said.